The recent collapse of the U.S financial industry and the tailspin into recession seems not to have dented neoconservative confidence. Incredibly, there are those still defending the economic system responsible for the crisis, beating the drums for less regulation and increased trade liberalization. In the mean time, tax payers are busy bailing out the companies that insisted on less government intervention, acting as a financial safety net for the rich while their own living standards decline.
On a global scale, trade liberalization and market deregulation has not only created massive financial turmoil, but has also created an alarming food crises around the world. Prices for basic food commodities have risen dramatically (over 35% in the past year alone), and millions of people are living on a calorific intake well below the United Nations recommended minimum.
One would hope there would be limits to neoconservative fanaticism in the face of outright food riots in Haiti, but Robert Zoellick, the Head of the World Bank (and close friend of the Bush family) has offered more trade liberalization as a solution. "If ever there is a time to cut distorting agricultural subsidies and open markets for food imports, it must be now," said Zoellick at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC. "If not now, when?"
Like with Iraq, neoconservative solutions to problems they have created consists of applying the very same policies, but hoping for a different result. The truth is, financial globalization has failed to deliver the goods, and the poor are paying a huge price for ideological stubbornness and greed.
The mainstream media have of course, failed to do their jobs properly and report on the contributing factors to the massive global economic meltdown. The corporate conglomerates that feed us news have stood to gain from deregulation and globalization, so have no interest highlighting issues that work against their interest.
The potent mixture of ideological dogma and a compliant media has lead to a public misunderstanding of the economic problems we are now faced with. Presidential candidate John McCain is running on a platform of more tax cuts and less government, aiming to woo the very people disenfranchised by the system he is advocating. The Democratic candidates are little better, offering half hearted solutions to a problem with huge underlying causes. They are unwilling to speak candidly to the American public, and serious debate on economic reform has given way to pledges on tax breaks for the middle classes. The mantra of 'Free Markets' still reigns, with no mainstream politician willing to break the orthodoxy.
It took months of live car bombs, anarchy and destruction for people to wake up to the realities of war in Iraq, but economic depression is hitting Americans on a daily basis. Acutely aware of their own plight, they are beginning to ask serious questions about the system that seems to work only for the few.
Predictably, our media pundits and politicians are not providing meaningful answers. During the April 16 ABC Democratic presidential debate, co-moderator Charles Gibson asked the candidates about a commitment to capital gains tax-cuts, asserting that, "in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down."
Gibson concluded, "History shows that when you drop the capital-gains tax, the revenues go up."
As the Congressional Budget Office reports, this is absolute nonsense. Says Paul Krugman:
"The important thing to realize, when looking at the history of federal revenues, is that they tend to grow over time even if there is no change in policy. One reason is inflation; another is growing population; a third is long-run economic growth."
He continues, "There was a huge revenue increase during the Clinton years [when taxes increased]. There was also the much-touted revenue surge of the later Bush years, but this followed a spectacular revenue plunge earlier. At this point real revenue per capita is only slightly higher than it was at the end of the 1990s."
Rather than challenging Gibson's dubious claims and engaging in a serious discussion about tax policy, political talking heads were more interested in assessing the candidate's body language.
"Overall, with the spotlight on him very bright, Obama didn't step up," summarized NBC's Chuck Todd. "He got rattled early on and never picked his game back up. Clinton wasn't very warm (outside of he first few minutes), but she didn't have the spotlight on her very bright."
The independent media (namely the blogosphere and non profit media outlets) is taking over where NBC and Fox have failed, but the information battle is far from won. After 30 years of neoconservative dominance and corporate hegemony, alternative voices are still not confident after systematic suppression and dismissal.
Emerging back into the limelight, the left is again analyzing, organizing, and fighting back. A new era has dawned and the Internet is providing fertile ground for dissent. Thousands of bloggers and sites are now reaching millions of people, holding politicians and the media accountable for their complacency. Disorganized and somewhat haphazard, they are still providing crucial analysis of events the mainstream will not touch.
Without as much money, time or power, the alternative media must do all it can to redress the imbalanced political discourse. That means it must work harder, work smarter and above all, shout louder to get heard. The stakes could not be higher.